Comments for Study 12
Memory Verse: 13
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I. A Centurion Named Cornelius (1-8)
>1. Who was Cornelius? (1)
Acts 10:1 "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment."
* "At Caesarea" -Acts starts out in Jerusalem. Then it begins to mention Sameria, Gaza, Antioch and Caesarea. Caesarea was Rome's local capital. Most of the people were not Judeans.
* "Cornelius" -Roman name
* "centurion" -Roman commander of one hundred men and a career soldier for life.
* "Italian Regiment" -All the men of this regiment were Italian, gentiles.
>What was his devotion to God like? (2)
Acts 10:2 "He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly."
* "He and all his family" -Cornelius was a good husband and father to have such influence.
* "devout" -Dvout means dedicated in firm belief and respect, pious.
* "God-fearing" -In the last study I commented on God-fearing. Proverbs states that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and to shun evil in understanding.
* "he gave generously" -He was loving and kind. His faith was practical in every day life.
* "to those in need" -Jesus taught us to give to those who can not repay us. (Luke 14:12-14)
* "prayed to God regularly" -Prayer in communication with God. We tell him all in our hearts, wether good or bad, ugly or refreshing; fear and sadness; praise and glory.
* Luke mentions these things as an illustration of what it means to be a Israelite that pleases God, whether through ancestor or Christ. Some call him a Jewish proselyte.
>What was his vision? (3-4)
Acts 10:3-4 "One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God."
* "three in the afternoon" -Cornelius would not have been sleeping.
* "a vision" -Reality displayed in our mind while asleep in a dream or while awake in a manifestation. Most visions in scripture convey revelations from God. Biblical visions concern immediate situations (Gen. 15:11, Acts 12:7) and more distant ones connected with the development of the kingdom of God, as may be seen in the writings of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Micah, Daniel, and John. In the Old Testament false prophets feigned visons and were denounced by Jeremiah (14:14, 23:16) and Ezekiel (13:7). (Partial source The New Compact Bible Dictionary)
* "distictly saw an angel" -There was no doubt in his mind.
* "angel of God" -As opposed to the only other kind, an angel working with Satan.
* "stared at him in fear" -Cornelius, a man who knew battle, knew beyound a shaddow of doubt that what he had seen was an angel and was afraid. The one before him did not look like a man, though may have been similar in appearance to a man.
* "memorial before God" -Something to be remembered. God seems the actions of those who fear him and remembers them. People may not see what we do, but God does.
* Cornelius' situation is an answer to the questions, "What if a person never heard the gospel?" and "What if the name of Jesus as Savior is never spoken to a person?" Question like these are followed by, "Will they be outside the kingdom of God? Can they be blaimed? Will they go to hell in punishment? Surely a loving and just God would not do such a thing?" People who ask these questions fail to recognize that God is in complete control. He judges the heart. If a person is truely seeking God and living to please him, God will reveal himself to that person. He will send someone to lead them to Jesus. Cornelius is just such a person. Perhaps the skeptic may say, "Yes, but what of the people in North and South America at this time. How could a person get to them?" The people who ask such questions are not looking for justice for other people, but justification for thier sins. They desire to make a case against God. As far as the people in parts of the world that man can not travel, God is always there. Philip was taken from one place and brought to another without walking, riding a horse or chariot, and without flying or on a boat. God is just. God knows the heart. He will bless those who truely seek him. J. Vernon McGee wrote in his Thru the Bible Commentary Series "This centurion had not met Jesus Christ nor come into His presence, but he was living up to the light that he had. Paul is referring to those who do not live by the light they have in Romans 1:19-20, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." This is God's answer... Now how will God get the gospel to Cornelium? The barriers seem insurmountable. The church at this time -and for the first eigth years -was exclusively Jewish."
>2. What was God's instruction to Cornelius? (5-6)
Acts 10:5-6 "Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea."
* "Now" -Cornelius believed in the one true God, the God of the Jews and lived right; however he lacked the most important thing - knowledge and a relationship with Jesus, the Messiah. Knowing and understanding is good, but they do not save. Believing in Jesus is life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies."
* "send men to Joppa" -The angel could not give the message of salvation through Jesus. In an earlier study I mentioned one of three things needed during conversion was a man or women of God coming into their life, even if for a short time, and even if not directly (book, radio, TV, or the world wide web).
Acts 10:7-8 "When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa."
* Cornelius did what the angel said.
* Cornelius did not to many which would draw attention and perhaps fear.
* "devout soldier" -Perhaps he too believed in the God of the Jews.
II. Peter's Vision (9-23a)
>3. Where was Peter staying? (6)
Acts 10:6 "He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea."
* "Joppa" -Joppa was less than fifty miles (30km) south of Caesarea. It too was a port city for Jerusalem.
* "Simon the tanner" -A tanner worked with animal skins and hides. Jews considered them unclean, though the Bible did not. Being unclean all tanners were forbidden to work in Jerusalem.
* The previous event and this one were very similar to events in Jesus' earthly ministry. Peter would relate to a Roman centurion sending for a Jew and follower of Jesus.
* Two points to make about Peter. First, he was a Jew who believed in Jesus and had been so far greatly used by Jesus to spread the gospel and strengthen the church. Yet, he still went to the temple to pray and kept Jewish dietary restrics, something some today would say was not needed because we live in grace. Was Peter wrong? No, as the miracles testify. Second, Peter had been with Jesus three years who often talked about clean and unclean, needed to be prepared in order for him to accept Gentles. The Jewish believers had been surprized that Samaritians, Israel but not Jew, had been accepted by God. Did Peter know everything? No. Peter and the first converts needed to grow to realize that God was accepting Gentiles even if they had not been complete Jewish converts like the Ethiopian eunuch was. If fact most never learned what Paul, also a Jew, would learn about the age we are in. The law is fulfilled in Christ and therefore we are not blamed for not keeping any of it if we are in Christ. In fact Paul would say that since Jesus fulfilled the law we don't have too. Rather, we need to live by the Spirit of God, a higher calling to purification than the law ever gave us. Peter and the first generation in the church, almost all Jews at this time needed to be prepared for what is about to happen. From this we can see that knoweldge does not save. Rather, faith does.
>What was Peter doing at noon? (9-10) What does this teach about Peter's life of mission?
Acts 10:9-10 "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance."
* "About noon... he became hungry" -Peter must have been praying for a while.
* "the meal was being prepared" -Men did not cook in those days. Simon the tanner was very generous to Peter.
* "fell into a trance" -A trance is viewing something that is not real. A vision is real. A trance is unreal vision that portrays a spiritual reality and often direction for a follower of Jesus. During a trance a persons senses are not functioning in part or in full. What is experience does not come from what is arround them, but from God into the mind.
>4. What did Peter see in the trance? (11-12)
Acts 10:11 "He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air."
* "something like a" -things in trances are not real, but are can be interpreted by the person, or a beliver that the person can get in contact with.
* "four corners" -The Bible elesewhere speaks of the four corners of the earth in reference to the continental landmass where men recide. I believe what Peter saw a shape of the outlines of the continents (with North and South America connected to Europe and Afica). I have no proff of this other than the way the sheet is described.
* "unclean" -Deut. 14:1-14
>What was God's command? (13)
Acts 10:13 "Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
* "A voice told him" -Peter knew it was God, the Lord Jesus.
* Peter would wonder why God seemed counterdictory. He did not remember Jesus teach, "Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" (Mark 7:14-23)
* Why such a vivid teaching lesson? Why not just remind him of these words that Jesus taught him? For the same reason Peter needed to be told to eat twice; because his bias was blinding him to obedience.
>5. What was Peter's response? (14) Why?
* Acts 10:14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
* "Lord" -Again, Peter knew it was the Lord.
* "Surely not, Lord!" -Peter's bias let him to disobey and rebuke the Lord.
* "I have never..." -Peter was still living under the Mosaic system. He was willing to rebuke God rather than accept the new revelation through Jesus. God is patient with us. He teaches us over and over again until we get it right.
>How did God persuade him? (15-16)
Acts 10:15-16 "The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven."
* "unclean... impure" -Gentiles in the eyes of Jews.
* "God has made clean" -Everything is blessed by God. "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me'--but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Cor. 6:12) And, "'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is constructive." (1 Cor. 10:23)
* "three times" -Peter was absolutly stubborn, and so God was absolutely clear.
>6. When did the men sent from Cornelius meet Peter? (17-18)
Acts 10:17-18 "While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there."
* "found out where Simon's house was" -Perhaps by asking around town, but most likely by following the smells. A tanner's job is smelly.
* "stopped at the gate" -Jews did not allow gentiles to enter their house because they believed their uncleaniness would defile them. They respected that and stayed outside.
>How did God help Peter to welcome them? (19-20)
Acts 10:19-20 "While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."
* "wondering about the meaning of the vision... thinking about he vision" -I believe that God still speaks to his people in dreams, visions, and trances. However, so does evil spirits. Therefore, we need to consider these in light of the word of God. I sleep lightly for several reasons. And so I wake up remembering a lot of dreams. I can not remember them all. However, if a theme is repeted over and over again, I should take note and consider them.
* "the Spirit said to him" -Peter was not in the trance now.
* "three men" -Three times the sheet was let down. Now three gentiles show up at the gate.
* "Do not hesitate to go with them" -Peter had been waiting for food to be prepared. Though the meaning is that he would not hesitate because of religous objections.
* "I have sent them" -indirectly through their master and leader Cornelius.
* God is patient with his people.
>What did they explain about Cornelius? (21-22)
Acts 10:21-22 "Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say."
* "respected by all the Jewish people" -No small thing for a Roman centurian, the hated occupier. I wonder if this soldier had something to do with the crucifiction of Jesus. Matthew 27:54 stated, "When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" I figure we won't know until we get to heaven and run into him... or them since there were propably twenty to fourty of them in Palestine at the time.
* "so that we may hear what you have to say" -They wanted to be taught. Peter himself had just been taught, or I should say retaught.
>How could Peter welcome them? (23)
Acts 10:23 "Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along."
* "Peter invited the men into the house" -A complete break of culture that must have surprized all including the owner of the house.
* "as his guests" -A complete break of pride and culture.
* "some of the brothers from Joppa" -They would be witnesses.
III. Peter at Cornelius' House (23b-33)
>7. How did Cornelius prepare for Peter's coming? (23-24, 27)
Acts 10:23-24 "Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends."
Acts 10:27 "Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people."
* "Cornelius was expecting them" -He believed that Peter would come. He wanted Peter to feel at home.
* "called together he relatives and close friends" -Cornelius wanted all to learn what he had high expectations of because of power of the vision.
>When Cornelius met Peter, what did he do? (25)
Acts 10:25 "As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence."
* "fell at his feet" -A soldiers mind.
* "in reverence" -The Bible says, "Blessed are the feet of those who bring good news."
>How did Peter respond? (26)
Acts 10:26 "But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."
* Peter was humble because of Jesus.
* Jews accepted the Gentiles only because of Jesus. There is not other reason.
* "I am only a man myself" -Paul would right, "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (Romans 3:29-31)
>8. What did he explain and what did he ask them about? (27-29)
Acts 10:27-29 "Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?"
* "Peter went inside" -Peter obeyed God instead of the traditions of men.
* "found a large gathering of people" -The gentiles gathered had assumed that the man who was coming would come inside the shelter of the house.
* "against our law" -The law of people based on verses like Joshua 23:7-8 "Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now." And Proverbs 22:24-25 stated, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared." One of the often sighted violaton the Pharisees claimed about Jesus was that he ate and drank with sinners. They did not understand what Jesus had taught in response. Peter was just now beginning to understand.
* "associate with a Gentile or associate with him" -The religious leaders went way beyond what the law had stated.
* "I should not to call any man impure or unclean" -Not that all men are clean because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Rather, no man can judge another man because he is just as sinful as those he sets himself up as judge of. Jesus ofen taught this. God alone is judge because he alone is pure and therefore qualified to act as judge. God the Father has set up his Son, Jesus as judge of all.
* "May I ask why you sent for me?" -Peter had often preached the gospel to crowds of people. Jesus had instructed us to bring the gospel to all the nations. Here, Peter had the prime setting to preach to another nation, but he did not force a gospel presentation out, though he must have known why he was there. Rather, he was polite and asked a probing question. He let them open the subject. We should always be ready for the Holy Spirit's moving. We don't need to force anything. We need to pray for others salavation and God's leading, as most likely Peter was doing at the tanner's house. Then we need to be ready for the Spirit's leading. If the Spirit does not move we can give the most convincing aurguments and quiet all opposition, but if the Spirit doesn't move the heart, our labor is in vain. That is why Jesus taught, "Don't throw your pearls to pigs." (Matt. 7:6) So, pray for the Spirit's moving, be ready to share, wait for the Spirit's work, and humbly present the gospel.
>What was Cornelius' explanation? (30-33)
Acts 10:30-33 "Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."
* "it was good of you to come" -I can feel his excitement that a man named Simon Peter was in the home of Simon the tanner for it proclaimed the truth of the vision. He also acknoledged what Peter said and thanked him for entering his house.
* "in the presents of God" -Jesus said, "Where two or three of you are gathered in my name there I am." Cornelius did not know that Jesus said this yet, but he understood the principle.
* "the Lord has commanded you to tell us" -What an amazing proclamation of honor and submission to the Lord God Jesus.
* "four days ago" -The Jews counted part of a day as a full day.
>Why do you think Cornelius' experience was recorded again? (1-5, 30-33)
* Acts 10:1-5 "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter."
* So all generations know that God wants Jews and Gentiles to be together as one people who worship and obey him.
* Peter had recognized that the barrier between Jew and Gentile had been removed. (Eph. 2:11-22)
* All men, Jew or Gentile seek to know God. All have a desire to know the one and only true God. God is not just the God of the Jews. He is God of all men. When the Jews, through Christ, began to share with other nations the God of their ancestors, they fulfilled God's will and the world became blessed as the Lord had told Abraham.
IV. The Good News of Peace (34-48)
>9. What did Peter learn through Cornelius' testimony? (34-35)
* Acts 10:34-35 "Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."
* Peter had learned this because not only did an angle of God visit Cornelius, but God told him to go to that man.
* "God does not show favoritism" -A common belief from ages past among nations, people groups, religious movements, churches, and even individuals is that they are special to God. All are special to God for God is love.
* "who fear him and do what is right" -God's favor is based on our reaction to his soveriegn calling. John 1:12-13 states, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."
* Peter's new understanding is not new to the Bible. Many Old Testament verses confirm this. (i.e. Deut. 10:17, Job 34:19, 2 Chron. 19:7)
>What did Peter assume about their knowledge of Jesus? (36-38)
* Acts 10:36-38 "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached--how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him."
* "you know" -Jesus ministry had spead far even before the apostles went out.
* "peace" -Between God and men.
* "after the baptism John preached" -Mark's gospel, considered Peter's gospel recorder, starts with John too.
>10. What was the main content of the good news of peace? (36-43)
* Acts 10:39-43 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.""
* The gospel is the content of Jesus' life and ministry; his death and resurrection the cornerstone of salvation for all men.
* Jesus gives us world mission and hope in his second coming.
* "God raised him from the dead" -Every message given in Acts mentions Jesus' resurrection. Many today speak of Jesus' death and burial, but without the resurrection those facts don't mean anything. The resurrection shows Jesus' divine blessing and the believer's future. The resurrection is the hope of mankind.
>How did God bless Peter's preaching? (44)
* Acts 10:44 "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message."
* "While Peter was still speaking" -Peter must have not finished his message.
* "the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" -Neither Peter nor any Jew had laid their hands on them and they received the Spirit just as the Jews on Petecost did. The Spirit came only when they heard the gospel and believed what they heard. How was this visable? They spoke in tongues and praised God. This visable manifestation was needed for the Jews present.
* "on all" -The Gentiles for the Jews who came with Peter already had the Spirit.
>What was the response of the Jewish Christians? (45-46)
* Acts 10:45-46 "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,"
* "circumcised believers" -Jews or Jewish converts.
* "who came with Peter" -Peter was wise in bringing Jewish witnesses. He knew that they, as he, would have a hard time accepting the Gentiles.
* "astonished that the gift" -The gift is free to all was something they had not been taught by the Jewish leadership.
* "poured out" -As the Old Testament prophets had foretold of this age.
>How did Peter confirm the work of God? (47-48)
* Acts 10:47-48 ""Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.""
* "baptized with water" -Used as an acknoledgement to both Jew and Gentile that they accept each other in God's family.
* "he ordered" -Peter had authority because God gave it.
* "stay with them for a few days" -They wanted to learn more.
* At the beginning of the age the Jewish believers had a hard time accepting the Gentiles. Now at the end of the age the Gentile believers have a hard time accepting the Jews. This reminds of the battle between Leah and Rachael; in Leah was Judah, and in Rachael was Joseph and his Egyptian sons. The two wives battled each other for the affection of their husband. Their descendants have been battling every since.
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